Audit Shows That Federal Office Buildings Are Now 80 Percent Vacant: Where Are the Workers?

Diegomezr /
Diegomezr /

The US Department of Agriculture is headquartered in the impressive Jamie L. Whitten Building in Washington, DC. It’s a massive structure with thousands of offices. It is so large that the government built bridges across Independence Avenue in the 1930s to connect the different buildings into one complex. The building is also virtually empty every day of the week. There’s almost no one in the office, according to a new audit from the General Accounting Office (GAO).

This isn’t a rarity with the Department of Agriculture. Virtually every cabinet-level agency has a majority of its offices empty right now, with no one coming into work. Only 9% of the offices in the Jamie L. Whitten Building are occupied between Monday and Friday.

The same goes for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Social Security Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, the General Services Administration, and the Small Business Administration. All of those buildings are currently at no more than 9% occupancy on workdays.

The Departments of Education, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, and the National Science Foundation, have an occupancy rate of just 16%.

The Departments of Energy, Labor, Interior, and Health and Human Services, plus the US Agency for International Development and the Department of Defense building in Alexandria, VA, all have just 23% of their offices in use right now.

The Departments of Commerce, Justice, State, Treasury, and Homeland Security, along with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, are using an average of 36% of their office space. Not a single one of the two dozen federal agencies that the GAO audited is using more than 50% of its office space.

Where are the workers? They’re still at home. They’ve never come back into the office following the pandemic.

Who could blame them? Most of the bureaucratic jobs at these agencies are the equivalent of a pointless, soul-sucking, paper-pushing job in the HR Department. Federal workers don’t do anything at the office all day long anyway, so why not do that from home in their pajamas while collecting a six-figure paycheck from the taxpayers?

Their pointless jobs are part of the reason why so many federal workers are always getting caught watching porn at the office on their taxpayer-provided computers. When the Trump administration tried to figure out which jobs in the DC bureaucracy could be cut, they audited the use of employee work computers at multiple agencies.

That investigation found that many employees at the Securities and Exchange Commission spend up to 98% of their workdays viewing porn. A worker at the US Geological Survey was found to have spent 9,000 work hours viewing porn, which resulted in him infecting the entire building’s network with malware. An Environmental Protection Agency employee curated a massive library of almost 10,000 pornographic images for himself on his work computer. None of them was ever fired.

So, a large majority of federal employees are now “working” from home. Meanwhile, your tax dollars are paying for the upkeep of these buildings that are sitting there with only a 10 to 20% occupancy rate. Imagine what it costs to run the heat, A/C, and water at the nearly empty Jamie L. Whitten Building.

We sincerely hope that House Republicans are paying attention to this report. This could be some incredibly low-hanging fruit for them to snag in the run-up to the 2024 election. If they really want to find ways to cut the budget, they could start by consolidating many of these empty agencies into just one building and put the others up for rent.